Manteo High football squad to rely on “physicality”

By on August 10, 2019

In spending some time chatting with Manteo High School head football coach Sport Sawyer over the last week, I realized we had quite a few things in common. First and foremost is our affinity for the Washington Redskins. Since the Skins haven’t given us much to cheer about of late, we’re forced to dig deep into the memory bank.

I am a few years Sawyer’s junior, so for me, that means reminiscing on the Doug Williams-to-Art Monk days. Sawyer hearkens back to the days of the John Riggins running behind the fabled offensive line that earned the affectionate nickname “The Hogs.”

Fast forward to present day and Sawyer is entering his third year as head coach of the Skins — the Manteo Redskins, that is. And after talking with Sawyer about this year’s Manteo squad, I’m envisioning “The Hogs” 2.0.

That’s not to say that Manteo isn’t capable of moving the ball through the air. Senior Quarterback Bryson Sawyer has enough arm to go around, and he’s got capable pass-catching options like 6’5” senior James Gilreath, senior Darren Saunders and juniors Kolton Frady, Mekhi Bias and Jarvis Santry. With weapons like that, the Manteo ball coach would love to take a few shots down field.

That said, the key to this year’s team lies in the trenches. And that’s where you’ll find standout offensive linemen Thomas Orgsbon, Kyle Soles, Hayden Scott, Mikey McCallum and Dylan Sharp. When I asked the coach what he thought the key to this year’s success would be, he instantly responded, “Our physicality.”

But, if the Manteo Redskins truly want to play in a way reminiscent of those other Redskins, who will play the role of physical running back John Riggins? A slew of hopeful cast-members is auditioning for the part, and Sawyer believes that they all are worthy of garnering carries from his backfield. There are seniors Wolfie Schultz and Caleb Barker, as well as junior Andy Woodson and sophomore Kamari Brooks. If that group is able to pound the football, that will afford Sawyer the opportunity to take those shots downfield via play-action.

Which takes us back to the importance of “The Hogs” on the offensive line. And as is common at the 1A level, we can expect to see a lot of those same faces roaming the field on the defensive side of the football. With that being the case, it should come as no surprise that Coach Sawyer again harped on the importance of being physical when discussing his defensive game plan. Thankfully for him, he’s got Armani Pledger on that side of the ball. Listed on the depth chart at 6’4 and 325 pounds, they don’t come off the assembly line any more physical than Pledger. Joining forces with P.J Kinsey and many of those same guys already mentioned from the offensive line, Pledger and that defensive front hope to “win the line of scrimmage.”

Seniors Jake Brown and Caleb Barker will help anchor the defense from the linebacker position with Tyner Gray, Willie Etheridge and others providing support. As for the defensive backfield, there is an ongoing position battle that will be settled on the field. Mekhi Bias, Dakota Meekins, Brian Sikes, Sam Wright, Luke Bane and Chase Joyner, among others, are all vying for time there.

So just how physical will this year’s squad be? The early August scrimmage against the powerhouse Northeastern team will provide a good preseason test. A solid showing against the Eagles sure would go along ways toward easing the mind of Coach Sawyer. It will also go along ways toward preparing Manteo for the season opener against rival Currituck County on Aug. 23.

*Manteo Redskins football games will be aired on 98.1 The Score and streamed online at*

Tom Hoggard is sports director/media consultant at East Carolina Radio. He hosts the Outer Banks Sports Report on 98.1 The Score Monday through Friday from 7 to 9 a.m.


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